Photo courtesy UTEP Athletics
First-year UTEP Head Coach Ben Wallis faced his former team as his current team fought tooth and nail with its rival.
However, NM State found ways to tally points and overcome a pair of deficits (1-0, 2-1) to defeat UTEP, 3-2 (25-20, 16-25, 25-17, 15-25, 10-15), on Sunday afternoon in the Pan Am Center on the final day of the co-hosted Borderland Invitational.
The Miners (4-3) fell in their second consecutive match, while the Aggies improved to 6-0.
Mallory Yost converted 47.1 percent of her attacks into nine kills with only one error, while Serena Patterson paced the team with 12 kills. Irbe Lazda added eight kills while Alianza Darley and Cheyenne Jones recorded seven apiece. Kristen Frische led the way with 19 assists and Syenna Masaki set up 18 assists.
NM State, after entering the contest 15-0 in sets, fell in its first of the young season, 25-20, to UTEP. The Miners won their first set against the Aggies for the first time since the 2016 season.
The Miners jumped out to a 4-1 lead during the first set off a kill from Anamarija Mikovic. NM State would answer with a 6-3 run to tie the set 7-7. After going back and forth heading to a 10-10 tie, the Miners tallied the next four points. Yost converted on an attack, Jones hit on a block solo and a pair of attack errors put up 14-10, forcing the Aggies to take a timeout.
After the Aggies responded with a pair of points to get within two (14-12), UTEP went on a 5-2 run to take a 19-14 lead, capped by Jones’s third kill of the set from an assist from Masaki. Following that, a six-point lead (20-14) was tallied as Lazda recorded a kill.
NM State came up with a pair of points, making the count 20-16, but UTEP would score five of the next nine points to win the first set 25-20. A service error started the run, while it was capped by a Yost kill, her fifth early in the match.
The point came off Masaki’s seventh assist of the set.
NM State wouldn’t go down easy though, tying the match 1-1. The Aggies raced out to a 16-10 lead. Earlier in the set, UTEP got within two points (9-7) after a kill by Patterson from Fritsche.
However, the Aggies took another six-point advantage (18-12) off a kill by Cat Kelly. After UTEP tallied two consecutive points to get within five (21-16), Aggies used a 4-0 run to fight off the Miners for 25-16 victory.
The third set went neck and neck during the first 14 points as the rivals would be tied 7-7. UTEP started an 11-6 run off a service error, while a service ace by Masaki put the Miners up 18-13.
Following that, a pair of attack errors by Kelly and a block assist by Jones gave the Miners a commanding 24-15 lead. Aggies recorded the next two points, but a service error clinched the win for the Miners, 25-15, and a 2-1 lead in the match.
The Aggies would respond again in a big way, as they took a 7-1 lead to start the fourth set. An attack error started a UTEP run and a Patterson block solo got her squad within a point (8-7).
The Miners then tied the set 12-12 when Brianna Arellano connected on a kill off a set from Fritsche. But the Aggies’ Kelly recorded a service ace to up her team up 17-13. The Miners couldn’t recover, falling in the set 25-15 as Aggies would tie the match 2-2.
NM State took an early 4-0 lead in the fifth and final set. A service error put the Miners on the board, while Jones converted on a kill from an assist by Masaki to get within a pair of points (4-2).
The two squad traded points before a Lazda kill and attack error put UTEP within a point, down 7-6. But a block assist by Lia Mosher and Julianna Salanoa put the Aggies up 13-10, as they took the set 15-10.
Up next, UTEP will compete at the Montana Invitational in Missoula, Mont. The Miners will open against Cal State Bakersfield Friday, Sept. 13 at 10 a.m. MT. Later that day, the Orange and Blue will take on Montana State at 4 p.m.
The weekend will end against host Montana Sept. 14 at noon.